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Why it matters that Sony is getting more serious about game preservation

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(Image credit: Sony)

It's more important than ever before for the video game industry to actively invest in game preservation. While the topic has been a big talking point for a number of years – particularly as we push further towards a digital-first future – it has come under the microscope once again as publishers begin to shutter legacy storefronts, making it near impossible to play countless games from previous console generations. Thankfully, it looks like Sony is taking a step in the right direction towards preserving its legacy.

According to Garrett Fredley – an engineer who recently posted about joining PlayStation – Sony is putting together a newly established preservation team to "ensure our industry's history isn't forgotten." While there has been no official announcement from the company regarding what that entails and what it will mean from a consumer standpoint, it's a move that I hope signals the start of a concerted effort to conserve Sony's vast catalog of games for future generations. 

Closure  

Best PS Vita games

(Image credit: Sony)

As support for older platforms draws to an end and as digital storefronts begin to close, calls for game preservation have only grown. The games we grew up playing, or were otherwise foundational to making the industry what it is today, are disappearing – and it's time for platform holders to step in and do something about it. 

Nintendo is closing the 3DS and Wii U virtual stores, leaving hundreds of platform exclusive games trapped in the past. Sony announced that the PlayStation Store for the PS3 and PS Vita would be shutting down which impacted developers who were still working on projects for the Vita. In response to the reaction to the news, PlayStation later posted a blog stating that it had made the wrong decision, but confirmed the PSP storefront would close as of July 2021. The reversal speaks to the desire for the older titles, and the discussion surrounding the end of support for Sony's past platforms has reinforced the importance of game preservation and the need to bolster efforts to ensure that many of its games can still be accessed in some form - especially when buying and downloading them on their native platform is no longer an option.

Interestingly, Sony just recently announced a new, enhanced subscription service that will bring PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now together into one package. With the promise of giving players the ability "to discover and engage with more content than ever before," the service is set to come in three different tiers, with the most expensive, premium tier offering access to portions of PlayStation's back catalog. With PS3 games available to play via cloud streaming, and a selection of classics from PS1, PS2, and PSP era consoles available for streaming and download, the availability of games from past generations is undoubtedly its biggest selling point. It also speaks to the fact that Sony is aware that there is a demand for its older titles, and for them to be easily accessed in one place – ie. the PS4 and PS5. 

While the inclusion of older titles in the new subscription service is an encouraging sign, Sony still has some way to go to deliver a strong backwards compatible offering. There have been some leaks that may point towards which games are included among Sony's older titles – such as Syphon Filter for the PS1, and Ridge Racer on the PSP – but beyond that, we don't yet know for certain which games from earlier PlayStation eras will be included. And as great as it is to see the PSP among the lineup, it's a shame that the PS Vita has been left out of the equation. 

We don't yet know why the handheld is absent, but it speaks to the need for greater preservation across all generations of consoles. Of course, it's not a straightforward or simple process by any means, but PlayStation consoles have been home to so many fantastic games over the years, and with so much love for past titles, I can't help but hope we continue to see more games made available. 

History

PlayStation

(Image credit: Future)

"Hopefully, if nothing else, it will help to preserve Sony's legacy of games released for years to come."

As of right now, it's not clear if this new preservation team will be in any way connected to PS Plus, or whether it will help to bring more games from Sony's back catalog to the latest consoles. But the newly established team looks like a positive step – one which indicates that Sony is getting serious about preserving its past.

Fredley offered some clarification on Twitter about the kind of work the new role entails with the team at PlayStation by referring to a GDC presentation about a prior preservation role at EA. In the talk, Fredley discusses the work that went in to preserve EA's AAA sports titles and "make it so they come back someday, whether that be 10 years later, 30, 40, [or] even 100 years." As a software engineer, Fredley offers fascinating insight into exactly what preservation is and the processes and challenges of archiving a game's data and files so they can be accessed and "come back again" in the future. The new role at PlayStation is said to be similar, albeit broader in scope, with Fredley adding that it's still to be determined as to whether any emulation work will be attached to the role. 

While the news of an established team at Sony may not mean we'll see more backward compatible titles or emulators in the near future, it's always a possibility. But regardless, it's important work nonetheless. Sony's vast catalog of games across the many generations of consoles are a part of gaming history, and it's fantastic to see the company actively invest in this area with a dedicated team. It'll certainly be interesting to see if any of this work does tie into the new subscription service offerings in the future and whether it will bring more of Sony's older library of games to the latest consoles. Hopefully, if nothing else, it will help to preserve Sony's legacy of games released for years to come. 


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Heather Wald
Heather Wald

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.